Civil War in 3D: The Life and Death of the Soldier

Image: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
Image: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers

We are still in the middle of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, which ended in May 1865. The fantastic app The Civil War Today, that I covered on GeekDad a few years ago, has continued to give play-by-play happenings of the war, though I admit I have fallen woefully behind on reading the updates.

The Civil War was the first American war that was well documented through photography, thanks to people like Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner. Since the necessary long-exposure times made it difficult to take photos during the fighting (not to mention dangerous), most of the one we see are of landscapes, posed military men, and deserted battlefields strewn with the dead.

A new product put out by the Smithsonian is Civil War in 3D: The Life and Death of the Soldier, a series of stereoscopic photographs that show 35 images from the war, along with a companion book. They detail everyday life for the soldiers, and in some cases, their death. View them through the included sturdy metal stereoscopic glasses and the images jump off the page, appearing to be three dimensional. The glasses collapse down to a portable size, making it easy to store. It’s also easy to swap out the photo pairs to see the next photo. The back of each photo pair includes a lengthy description of what you’re seeing.

In addition to the crisp photos, Civil War in 3D comes with a 175-page book describing many aspects of the war in words, and showing many more photos, paintings, diagrams, letters, and diaries. It is broken down by year (1861-1865) giving the major events of the war for each year. Following that, the book is filled with individual topics such as uniforms, weapons, life at camp, flags, first combat experiences, fear, letter writing, black soldiers, POWs, hospitals, and what it felt like to be shot. These aren’t merely sound bites with flashy boxes around them. They give a real taste of the war, covering interesting and often little-addressed aspects of war. Names, dates, and battles are included, sure, but they aren’t the emphasis. Read this book and look at all of the stereoscopic photos and you will leave with a impression of the war, of what it was like to live through it, or to die within its arms.

Available starting in October 2014, Civil War in 3D: The Life and Death of the Soldier is a fantastic gift for any history lover or photography aficionado. It does a fantastic job giving us a glimpse into the war experience from the perspective of the common soldier.

Note: I received this book for review purposes.

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